Welcome to the webbed and wired edition of R&R, aristotle. We’ll be doing the same sort of song and dance here as we do in print: reviewing the latest comics and cartoon-related books and ranting about trends and abuses and unfathomable foolishnesses. Each installment will stay here for about four weeks, with a new one coming in just about every other week or so. If you don’t have the time to ponder every punctuation mark in this deathless prose and merely want to see what might be there that would interest you, we suggest you scroll down the page looking for the bold-face type that heralds the notables who reside herein this week. So here we go with Opus 355 (and a reprise of Opus 354):
Opus 356 (August 20, 2016). Back to the old Rabbit Habit routine. Open Access Month is over, and the doors at Rancid Raves have slammed shut again except for $ubscribers. (But if you liked what you saw over the last month, consider joining us as a $ubscriber for a paltry $3.95/quarter after an initial $3.95 introductory month fee.) On the other side of the barricade, we report the first interview in the West with Iran’s Atena since her release and why Frank Cho quit his DC project drawing alternate covers for Wonder Woman. We round up some of the editoons committed during the politically fraught July and we review Adam Hughes’ Betty & Veronica, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Mycroft Holmes, Garrett Price’s unique White Boy, and a clutch of barenekkidwimmin comic books, one of which veers off into sadistic eroticism . We ponder cartooning at The New Yorker and deliver our final report on attending the San Diego Comic-Con (this one’ll be my last one). And we explain why superheroines won’t work in a politically correct environment. We also bid farewell to cartooning giant Jack Davis and the antic cartooning talent Richard Thompson.
This posting, you’ll see, is huge. We just can’t shut up. But that’s what it’s all about, eh? Talking about comics. That’s what we do here. But every time we get ready to post, the Trumpet blasts a new outrage and editoonists leap to their drawingboards, and we have even more to say. So we admit: there’s more here than can be read at a single sitting. We recommend using the contents listed below as a shopping list: scan the items listed and pick those that interest you; then scroll rapidly down to the ones you’ve picked, skipping over boring stuff. Politics and editooning spirals nearly out-of-control this time because of the political conventions and the Prez Election shenanigans; but if you’re not into politics, skip all that and go on to what you like.
Here’s what’s here, in order, by department—:
NOUS R US
Iran’s Atena Interviewed
LA Times Wants $300,000 in Advance Fees from Ted Rall
Frank Cho Quits DC Comics
Pearls Yanked Because of ISIS Joke
Ramirez Finds Work
Captain America Statue Not Welcome in Brooklyn
Superheroines and Violence Politically Incorrect
Joe Giella Retires from Mary Worth
REPORT ON MY LAST SANDY EGGO CON
Sergio Gets Icon Award
David Siegel Gets Alter Ego Cover Story
FUNNYBOOK FAN FARE
Adam Hughes’ Betty & Veronica
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Mycroft Holmes
Barenekkidwimmin and Sadistic Comics
The Political Conventions
Trump and Hillary
—July Was a Fun Month
Cutting Off Trump’s Tweeter
Explaining the Trumpster
Trumpster Dumpster: What’s In a Name?
THE FROTH ESTATE
—And Succeeds at Time’s 240 Issue
NEWSPAPER COMICS PAGE VIGIL
What’s Happenin’ On the Funnies Pages
Masters of American Illustration
— including some cartoonists
Garrett Price’s White Boy in Skull Valley
Jules Feiffer’s Next Graphic Novel
A-GAGGING WE GO
Magazine Cartooning at The New Yorker
Michael Crawford’s Puzzler Unpuzzled
ONWARD, THE SPREADING PUNDITRY
(With an Aside for Aussie Jim Russell)
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
If Not of A Lifetime
“Goddamn it, you’ve got to be kind.”—Kurt Vonnegut
Our Motto: It takes all kinds. Live and let live.
Wear glasses if you need ’em.
But it’s hard to live by this axiom in the Age of Tea Baggers,
so we’ve added another motto:.
Seven days without comics makes one weak.
(You can’t have too many mottos.)
And our customary reminder: when you get to the $ubscriber/Associate Section (perusal of which is restricted to paid subscribers), don’t forget to activate the “Bathroom Button” by clicking on the “print friendly version” so you can print off a copy of just this installment for reading later, at your leisure while enthroned. Without further adieu, then, here we go—:
NOUS R US
Some of All the News That Gives Us Fits
IRANIAN ARTIST SPEAKS TO THE WEST
Maren Williams at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund provides an introduction (in italics) to the interview Atena Farghadani gave in mid-July to the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna—:
Just over two months ago, Iranian artist and activist Atena Farghadani was freed from prison after her draconian prison sentence of 12 years and 9 months for mocking her country’s parliament in a cartoon was shortened to the 18 months she’d already served. (See Opus 355 for a succinct recitation of her story.—RCH)
Evin Prison, the Tehran lockup where Farghadani spent most of her incarceration, is almost invariably described in Western media as “notorious.” But in fact, she tells Cavna that the women’s prison at Gharchak where she was initially detained is even worse. It was there that she went on a prolonged hunger strike which resulted in cardiac arrest before she was moved to Evin. Last month, she gave an exclusive interview to Cavna about her time in prison, her plans for the future, and her conviction that she is obligated to keep making art in Iran, no matter the consequences.
OF THE THOUSANDS of artists I have interviewed over the years, few have been as demonstrably brave as Atena Farghadani. Today, Atena vows to continue to make political art from within Iran, where her voice may have the greatest effect.
This is an exclusive Q&A with Ms. Farghadani, in her first interview with the Western press since winning her release. The interview was conducted via email with the help of Nikahang Kowsar, the Iranian-born cartoonist and board member of the Washington-based Cartoonists Rights Network International, who himself was jailed in Iran in 2000 for his art. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
MICHAEL CAVNA: First off, Ms. Farghadani, let me just say, now that the opportunity finally provides: congratulations on your freedom. We heard reports about the difficult conditions while you were imprisoned. How are you feeling, and doing? And how does one even recover from a mental and physical ordeal such as yours?
ATENA FARGHADANI: I appreciate all the efforts you and your colleagues have made so far. My feelings at the moment are not very pleasant because it’s like I’m stuck in a limbo. Obviously, the mental weariness of imprisonment is more serious than the physical problems caused by it. At the moment, since I’ve arrived at the certainty that there is miracle lying in the art of drawing and painting, I’m more determined to continue doing it than ever.
MC: You, of course, have become an inspiration to so many around the world, Atena — a beacon of creative and political resistance. While you were in prison — Evin and elsewhere — how aware were of you of the degree to which the outside world knew and was following your story? Was Mohammad Moghimi [her lawyer] able to provide you with news in that regard during your case?
AF: When I was in prison, I wasn’t aware of outside events and the news about me, especially in 2015, when I was on a hunger strike in the gruesome Gharchak prison. At that point, I was absolutely hopeless and thought I would die there, without my voice ever being heard. But I kept going with the strike, constantly thinking that even if I die, I have a clear conscience for I’ve died for my beliefs and goals. After my appeal to be transferred to Evin prison was approved and I ended my hunger strike, my attorney, Mr. Moghimi, gave me all news in two very short visits, boosting my morale and giving me hope.
MC: One aspect of the ordeal of being in an Iranian prison was not knowing one’s fate — feeling as though you are in the legal hands of a system that might not practice justice as you, the prisoner, might understand it, and all the uncertainty. Could you talk about what was hardest for you about your long detentions and imprisonment — and whether you thought you might actually spend more than 13 years behind bars for your outspokenness and artwork?
AF: When I heard my sentence of 12 years and nine months imprisonment, I thought it was unbelievable and very unjust. Since I was 29 at the time, I calculated that I’d have to be in prison till I’m 42. At first, I had a hard time accepting the sentence, but then I thought I could use this time, as much as possible, to draw and have an opportunity to put an exhibition of my works after my release. I considered prison my home for the next 13 years. My family could not accept this new attitude of mine towards prison and my beliefs, and at times they were frightened by it and wept. At these times, I had no choice but to make faces for them from behind the glass in the visitation cabin to make them laugh. These were the hardest and most bitter days I had during my incarceration.
MC: Why do you think you were ultimately awarded your freedom? What swayed the legal system?
AF: As the results of the efforts made by my family and my attorney, Mr. Moghimi, and pressures from the international community and human rights organizations, my sentence was reduced from 12 years and nine months to 18 months and a three-year suspended sentence for insulting the supreme leader of Iran. I am grateful to all those whom I don’t know and to whom I owe my freedom.
MC: Is there anything about your case [including the reported “virginity test" after shaking your male attorney’s hand] that we should know about that we might not know?
AF: Yes, that’s … caused lots of confusion: Considering the fact that my family had refuted that I was tested for virginity and pregnancy because of shaking hands with my lawyer, people wanted to know the truth. The truth is that my family was in denial at the time because of the dominant traditions and the Iranian culture and fear for more pressure from the judiciary on me. But the tests were actually made, which led to my three-day dry hunger strike in objection. The Islamic Republic of Iran later confirmed this event. It is noteworthy that both my attorney and I were exonerated from the adultery accusations and I owe this to the judge of this specific case, who issued our exoneration verdict independently and neutrally in spite of the sensitivity of the case and security pressures.
MC: What art are you making now — and will your art remain political, or might you steer your art and activism in a different direction?
AF: Right now, I’m painting and making a collection of artwork with political and social contents, and I intend to have an exhibition within a year, but I’m afraid I can’t hold this exhibition in Iran, and thus I’m even thinking of having a street gallery, though it wouldn’t be without consequences. I believe that “criticism” serves art. So, I have decided to use my art to challenge social issues as I have done before, like the cartoon I drew after I was released as an objection to the dean of Al-Zahra University, who expelled me and many other students. [See Opus 355.]
MC: Do you feel safe now in Iran, and can you see ever coming to visit America?
AF: Of course, I could be more successful in developed countries, but when I witness the problems Iranians are dealing with, such as economic and cultural poverty and various limitations, I cannot leave them alone to live in another country in a better situation, despite all the constraints and issues I would possibly face. Many Iranians, though, have had to leave their homeland because of these constraints and have been active outside their country to improve human rights in Iran and are successful, too. But I don’t see it in me to be able to leave my country because of my emotional attachments, which is perhaps a weakness of mine, but as long as I live, I will stay here, even if I have to go to prison again.
MC: Are you comfortable with being a symbol for artistic resistance and political freedom of expression?
AF: I don’t consider myself a symbol. I simply acted on my thought, beliefs and principles, and I think all people have an individual and social task to fulfill.
MC: Is there something I didn’t ask that you would especially like to tell readers?
AF: Yes. One of the things that has had [a] destructive impact on me after my release was the incarceration in the gruesome Gharchak prison, which is for prisoners with all sorts of non-security crimes. What bothered me the most was to see inmates — many of whom were victims of the economic and cultural poverty in the Iranian system — who were not treated like human beings; their most basic rights were violated. I consider Gharchak prison as a graveyard of time … where time dies. I sometimes see those inmates in my nightmares. Once, I saw one of them collecting and braiding my fallen hair!
I see myself as a reflection of other people, and to respond to this question of yours, I would like to reflect the wishes of other women imprisoned in Gharchak — most of them longed for cool drinking water, instead of the salty lukewarm water they had to drink from the tap. There were only four showers in each chamber for 189 inmates, with the same salty water for only an hour a day, so many of them missed a hot shower! Many of them [condemned to] death sentences wished to plant something that wouldn’t wither from the salty water and [to] see that plant — to leave a living mark before departing from this life.
ADDING INSULT TO INJURY
Editoonist Ted Rall is currently suing the Los Angeles Times for defamation, blacklisting, wrongful termination and breach of contract; see Opus 350 for details. According to a press release from Rall’s attorneys, Shegerian & Associates, Inc., a Santa Monica-based litigation law firm specializing in employee rights, the newspaper’s initial response to Rall’s suit is its demand that Rall pay in advance $300,000 in “legal fees” to guarantee the Times’ attorney fees in the event they should win their anti-SLAPP motion.
S&A characterized this maneuver as a “bully move against a freelance cartoonist by a corporation that is egregiously inverting the very anti-SLAPP statute designed to protect employees from big corporations.”
The court has since ordered the Times to lower its request to $75,000.
Said Rall: “It feels almost like they are forcing me to ‘pay to play’ if I am to see my day in court. You’d think after what happened, they would be issuing an apology and offering me my job back, not trying to bankrupt me after wrongfully firing me.”
Rall was originally hired by the Times as an editorial cartoonist in 2009 and published approximately 300 of his cartoons and more than 60 of his blog posts in the paper between 2009 and 2015. At no time during his employment was Rall disciplined or written-up and he was consistently praised for his work. Then in the summer of 2015, Rall was summarily and publicly fired by the paper, which alleged that in a blog that May, Rall had posted untruths about his run-in with the Los Angeles police.
Said S&A: “The Times' suspicions about the veracity of Mr. Rall’s blog post were unfounded in that they failed to properly investigate the accusations and refused to acknowledge proof that Mr. Rall’s blog post was, in fact, accurate. The public defamation and subsequent blacklisting of our client following blatantly wrongful termination should be enough of a slap in Mr. Rall’s face, but the demand now for this freelance cartoonist to pay the Times’ legal fees in advance of a trial demonstrates that not only does the LA Times not play by its own rules employment-wise, as we will demonstrate in court, it behaves in a vindictive and unfair manner as well.”
The story of Rall’s adventure with the Times is detailed at Opus 342a.
CHO QUITS DC OVER ATTEMPTED CENSORING OF HIS WORK
New Creation in the Wings
Famed limner of the curvaceous gender Frank Cho made it through only six of the 24 Wonder Woman covers DC Comics had commissioned him to draw before he quit, fed up with would-be art critics and censors. In a statement to Bleeding Cool, he wrote (in italics):
All the problem lies with Greg Rucka [Wonder Woman writer].
EVERYONE loves my Wonder Woman covers and wants me to stay. Greg Rucka is the ONLY one who has any problem with covers. Greg Rucka has been trying to alter and censor my artwork since day one.
Greg Rucka thought my Wonder Woman No.3 cover was vulgar and showed too much skin, and has been spearheading censorship, which is baffling since my Wonder Woman image is on model and shows the same amount of skin as the interior art, and it’s a VARIANT COVER, and he should have no editorial control over it. (But he does. WTF?!!!)
I tried to play nice, not rock the boat and do my best on the covers, but Greg’s weird political agenda against me and my art has made that job impossible. Wonder Woman was the ONLY reason I came over to DC Comics.
To DC’s credit, especially [Art Director] Mark Chiarello, they have been very accommodating. But they are caught between a rock and a hard place.
“Cho’s no stranger to cover art controversy,” said Jessica Lachenal at themarysue.com. “—he’s been at the center of more than a few firestorms regarding the overtly sexualized covers that he draws of female comic book heroes. In one particularly egregious example, his ‘sexy cover’ of Spider-Gwen is especially skeezy because, well, she’s a teenager, but there she is, sexualized anyway.”
“It was a parody,” Cho said during the brouhaha over Spider-Gwen [see Opus 339]. “I was aping the infamous Manara Spider-Woman pose that sent some of the hypersensitive people into a tizzy.”
Cho was pursued by bloggers seeking interviews, but he didn’t bite.
“Instead of me wasting my breath and precious time by replying to non-issue, I’ve drawn another cover sketch in a response that will, hopefully, answer all the questions. Enjoy, everyone.” (We’ve posted both covers on the other side of the $ubscriber’s wall; now don’t you wish you’d signed up? Well, it’s not too late, kimo sabe.)
“That aside,” Lachenal resumed, “Cho’s drawn more than a few other cheesecake pieces, some of which [like the second sketch of Spider-Gwen] feel like very pointed jabs at folks who ‘overreact’ to such pieces. The Wonder Woman art in question hasn’t been released, and after this controversy, it doesn’t seem likely that it will be.”
Bleeding Cool reached out to Cho and Rucka for comments, but so far, only Cho has responded, to wit (in italics)—:
Since you’re asking me a straight question, I’m going to answer honestly as possible from my point of view.
Wonder Woman was my dream job at DC Comics. I love and respect the character very much. When I was invited by DC to draw the 24 variant covers for Wonder Woman, I was ecstatic. I was told that I had complete freedom on the variant covers and the only person in charge of me was the senior art director, Mark Chiarello, who I greatly respect. Win-win for everyone.
Now the variant covers are handled by entirely separate editorial office than the rest of the books. I was given assurance that I would not have to deal with the Wonder Woman book writer or editor at all, and was told I would only be dealing with Mark Chiarello. So I came onboard and started working right away.
Everything went smoothly at first. I turned in my first batch of cover sketches and Chiarello approved them, and I started finishing and inking them ASAP since these were biweekly covers and we had limited time. Then Chiarello started getting art notes from Greg Rucka ordering him to tell me to alter and change things on the covers. (Remove arm band, make the skirt longer and wider to cover her up, showing too much skin, add the lasso here, etc.)
Well, Chiarello and I were baffled and annoyed by Greg Rucka’s art change orders. More so, since the interior pages were showing the same amount or more skin than my variant covers. (For example: Issue No.2, panel one, etc.) I requested that Greg Rucka back off and let me do my variant covers in peace. After all, these were minor and subjective changes. And let’s face it, being told by a non-artistic freelancer what I can and cannot draw didn’t sit too well with me.
Then things got ugly.
Apparently unbeknownst to Chiarello and me, DC, for whatever reason, gave Greg Rucka complete and total editorial control on Wonder Woman including variant covers by contract. My promises of creative freedom were verbal. I think this is a case of complete miscommunication and things falling through the crack during the post-DC headquarters move to Los Angeles. Had I’ve known Greg Rucka had complete editorial control over the variant covers, I would have never came onboard Wonder Woman.
Since we were on the same team with the same goal – making great Wonder Woman comics— Mark Chiarello and I tried to reason with Greg Rucka to back off and let me do the variant covers in peace. But Rucka refused and tried to hammer me in line. Things escalated and got toxic very fast. The act of a freelance writer art-directing me, overruling my senior art director, altering my artwork without consent was too much.
I realized after Rucka’s problems with my Wonder Woman No.3 variant cover, my excitement and desire for the project had completely disappeared, and I decided to bow out quietly after I finish my Wonder Woman No.4 variant cover. (This was around end of May.) But DC wanted me to stay and finish out Nos.5 and 6 covers to give them some time to find my replacement.
So I stuck it out and tried to deal with the flagrant disrespect for six issues, and quietly stepped off until Bleeding Cool gave me little choice but to respond. They caught wind that there was some discord in the Wonder Woman office over my covers and were about to cast negative light on the wrong people. So I went public yesterday and set the story straight, correctly naming Greg Rucka as the source of the problem before the wrong information was published.
CHO HAS MORE than Wonder Woman to occupy him. In a month or so, Cho’s solo comic book enterprise, Skybourne, debuts. In July Previews, Cho, responding to questions, described the new venture:
“The Skybourne story is something I thought of over ten years ago. It’s the story of Thomas Skybourne, an immortal tired of his everlasting life, who goes on a search for a mystic weapon, Excalibur, that could kill him. In the opening sequence, Skybourne is seen falling from the sky (he jumped out of a plane without a parachute), his latest attempt at ending his life. So the name Skybourne has a double meaning: it describes his divine origin and the opening scene of the story. ...
The whole series is a cross between Indiana Jones and Highlander. ...
This is one of the few stories I’ve written that has a concrete beginning and end. This story came to me fully formed. And it’s also one of the most cinematic stories I’ve envisioned.
ISIS ON THE FRONT PAGES
—BUT NOT IN THE FUNNIES
Stephan Pastis has made a cottage industry out of trying to see how far he can go in making jokes about topics that the hyper-sensitive daily press deems “offensive.” And he gets away with it more often than not. Almost always, in fact. Until July 27, when his syndicate pulled the strip we’ve posted on the other side of the $ubscribers’ wall. ... To See That Politically Inflammatory Strip, plus an Essay on Superheroines and Violence Being Politically Incorrect, My Report on the Sandy Eggo Comic-con (My Last), a Selection of Editoons During the Politically Fraught Month of July, Various Trumperies, Reviews of Adam Hughes’ Betty & Veronica, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Mycroft Holmes, Black Hammer, Garrett Price’s White Boy in Skull Valley, Magazine Cartooning in the New Yorker—and More, Much More— Click Here And If You're Not a $ubscriber/associate—
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